Out of Uniform: Resume Tips for Transitioning Military Professionals
So you’re leaving the service and are faced with the daunting task of developing your resume. No doubt your military career is studded with accomplishments, but even the most decorated veteran needs to figure out how to make the transition to a civilian position. Follow these tips to draft a high-impact resume that shows how your military experience is transferable to a civilian job.
Define Your Civilian Job Objective
You can’t effectively market yourself for a civilian job if you don’t have a clearly defined goal. Because so many service people have diverse backgrounds, they often make the mistake of creating resumes that are too general to be effective. Before writing your resume, do some soul-searching, research occupations and pinpoint a specific career path. If you are having trouble with this step, tap into your local transition office or solicit the help of a career coach. If you find that you are torn between two or more potential goals, set up different resumes
Create a Resume that Speaks to Employers’ Needs
Now that your objective is defined, you are ready to create a winning resume. Consider a resume’s purpose: To answer the employer’s question, “What can this person do for me?”
A great way to start thinking about employers’ needs is to research your target job. What types of skills and experiences are employers seeking? What aspects of your background are most relevant?
Any information that does not relate to your goal should be eliminated or de-emphasized, and this includes any unrelated military awards, training and distinctions. For example, that medal you won for rifle marksmanship doesn’t belong on a civilian resume. This is often the hardest step for ex-military personnel, which is why it’s so common to see military resumes span five pages or longer. As you make the decision about which information to include, ask yourself, “Will a potential employer care about this experience?” Only include information that will help you land an interview.
Assume the Hiring Manager Knows Nothing about the Military
Demilitarize your job titles, duties, accomplishments, training and awards to appeal to civilian hiring managers. Employers with no exposure to the military don’t understand military terminology and acronyms, so translate these into “civilianese.” Show your resume to several non-military friends and ask them to point out terms they don’t understand. Use job postings as a tool to substitute civilian keywords for military terms.
One big issue Veterans returning from combat duty are finding as they seek civilian jobs is that civilian employers don’t understand that skills honed on the battlefield are in fact transferrable to the civilian jobs they have available.
In addition to translating your military record to a civilian resume, a Veteran must be able to speak about their job, position title, and responsibilities in a coherent and easy to understand fashion… without the military jargon.
Showcase Your Track Record of Accomplishments
Your military career has offered you excellent opportunities for training, practical experience and advancement. Tout your accomplishments so the average civilian understands the importance of your achievements and the measurable outcomes. Here’s an example of a demilitarized accomplishment statement:
- Increased employee retention rate by 16 percent by focusing on training, team building and recognition programs. Earned reputation as one of the most progressive and innovative IT organizations in the Army’s communications and IT community.
Here’s an example of incorporating a military award so employers understand its value:
- Received Army Achievement Medal for completing 400+ medical evaluations and developing patient database using MS Access. The database improved reporting functions and tracked patient demographics, records, medication, appointments and status.
Show off Your Military Background
You might have heard you need to develop a functional resume format to mask or downplay your military experience, but the opposite is true. Your military experience is an asset and should be marketed as such. Many employers realize the value of bringing veterans on board. Attributes honed in the military include dedication, leadership, teamwork, positive work ethic and cross-functional skills. If you fear a potential employer won’t realize the significance of your military experience, make sure your resume clearly communicates the value that you bring to the table.
If You Were in Active Combat, Leave out the Details
Military ResumesDefending your country and its interests is among the most admirable pursuits, but the sad truth is actual references to the horrors of combat leave many employers squeamish. While you might have worked in a short-range air defense engagement zone, this experience might not relate to your future goal. Tone down or remove references to the battlefield.
Test Drive Your Resume
For some veterans, developing a resume that works in the civilian world is an ongoing process. After you have polished your resume, start your distribution and keep track of your resume’s response rate. Solicit feedback and listen carefully to suggestions for improving your resume, and continue modifying the document until it successfully generates job interviews.
Don’t forget the Cover Letter – as important as the resume is, the first thing future employers will read is your Cover Letter. Check out our latest offer – 100+ Cover Letter Examples for less than $20.
Read more tips on how to write a Military Resume.
excerpt from Monster.com
Five Resume Essentials
- Proofread your resume.
“I read it when I wrote it!” my sister yells when I ask her if she proofread her resume.”Hmmm,” I say, looking over the piece of paper riddled with typos. “That’s why it says you have ‘good people kills.'”Maybe not the strongest qualification for the bank manager position she was going for.(I could give you more examples of loved ones who neglected to proofread their resumes and paid the price, but I’d like to go home for the holidays this year.)The best practice is to put your resume in front of a couple of different folks – your boss excluded – and listen seriously to their suggestions.
- You are what you read.
It amazes me.People will stampede to get the latest Suzanne Somers’ diet book, but go catatonic when I suggest they buy a career-related book.”Can I borrow your copy?” they ask.Believe me, the right book will pay for itself.In college, I bought a copy of Burton Jay Nadler’s resume guide Liberal Arts Power, and I still use the darn thing.Still, if you’re stashing your cash for a Thigh-Master, explore the career section at your local library.
- Be a resume voyeur.
It’s not as kinky as it sounds, but it is informative.Look at other people’s resumes whenever you get the chance. You’ll find good ideas – and bad ones. Consider using the best ideas for your own resume, as long as they relate to your experience.
- The truth about Ms. ASCII.
I often get frantic e-mail from people around the world. A typical one goes like this: “Please help! I’ve had several companies ask me to send my resume to Ms. Ascii. Who is she?”ASCII is not a person, but an abbreviation for “The American Standard Code for the Interchange of Information.” Or, put simply, plain-text format.Look at the keys on your computer keyboard. All the characters you see there — excluding the function keys — compose the ASCII family.Online job boards and some recruiters prefer ASCII resumes, because they retain their formatting, regardless of the software used to view them.If you plan to post your resume online or to e-mail it to a recruiter, you’ll want to have an ASCII version.Get more tips on ASCII resumes here: http://www.hotjobs.com/htdocs/help/myresume.html#formatting
- More resumes mean more chances.
You finally updated your resume, but you shouldn’t stop there.If you’re going to apply to a variety of jobs, make sure you have a resume tailored for each.A writer, for example, might have as many as six resumes: One for writer with additional versions for editor, copy editor, reporter, marketing manager and freelancer.What are Behavior Based Interviews? More Information.
More Behavior-Based Interview Questions and Guidelines
Interview Tips for Clear Communications
Military-to-Civilian Transition Resume Service – Online Service
Action Words That Make An Amazing Resume
One of the most important things when writing a resume is to use action words. Not only will these words increase the impact of your resume in the eyes of the employers but they might help your resume get selected when recruiters use resume scanning software.
Usually used to describe skills, experience and achievements, action words shouldn’t however be “stuffed” in your resume as you need to make sure your document sounds natural.
Here is a list of action words that will turn your resume into a powerful marketing document:
acted actively adapted addressed administered advised
alerted allocated analyzed answered appeared applied appointed appraised approved arbitrated arranged assembled assessed assigned assisted assumed assured attained audited authored automated awarded balanced bought
briefed broadened brought budgeted
built calculated capacity careful cataloged caused
chaired changed clarified clarified classified classified closed coached collected collected combined commented commitment communicated compared compiled completed comprehensive computed computed conceived conceived conceptualized conducted conducted considered consolidated constructed consulted continued contracted controlled converted coordinated corrected
decided defined delegated delivered demonstrated described designed designed determined developed devised diagnosed diagnosed diplomatic directed discreet discussed dispatched distributed documented doubled drafted earned
edited educated effected effective efficient eliminated enabled encouraged endorsed engineered enlarged enlisted entered established estimated evaluated examined executed expanded expedited experienced experimented explained explored expressed extended extracted fabricated facilitated filed filled financed focused forecast forecasted formulated found founded gathered generated headed helped hired identified implemented improved
launched learned leased lectured led licensed listed logged made maintained managed matched measured mediated met modified monitored motivated moved named navigated negotiated observed opened operated ordered organized oversaw participated perceived performed persuaded planned prepared presented processed procured programmed prohibited projected promoted proposed provided published purchased pursued qualified questioned raised ranked rated realized received recommended reconciled recorded recruited redesigned reduced regulated rehabilitated related reorganized repaired replaced replied reported
solved sorted sought sparked specified spoke
started streamlined strengthened stressed stretched structured studied submitted substituted succeeded suggested summarized superseded supervised surveyed systematized tackled targeted taught terminated tested
traced tracked traded trained transcribed transferred transformed translated transported traveled treated trimmed tripled
turned tutored umpired uncovered understood understudied unified unraveled updated upgraded used
utilized verbalized verified visited
waged weighed widened
References: Resume References Win Job Offers
Inquiring minds want to know, and no minds are more inquiring than those about to hire you. Rest assured, you will be investigated. As a rule of thumb, the better the job and the higher the pay, the tougher the screening process. If you are up for a good job at a visible company, your references and past employers will be checked in great detail. Your list of references is simply the beginning of the investigation a prospective employer will conduct.
When a prospective employer has completed the first round of interviews and you are among the top candidates, its next logical step is to check your references and interview those individuals to whom you reported. Are you certain these individuals will seal the deal for you, or will they blow it away? If you are like most people, you probably haven’t given your references much thought. Instead, you have focused on your résumé, interviewing skills, networking, and what to wear to the interview. Now the focus shifts.
Your biggest concern should be the quality of your references and recommendations from past employers, because they can make or break your chances. About half of all references that get checked range from mediocre to poor, so it is very possible that the great job you lost out on at the last moment had nothing to do with your skill level. It could have had more to do with what a reference or past employer said about you. So, if you are concerned that someone, somewhere, might be giving you a bum rap, you are probably right. That’s a frightening scenario when your livelihood is at stake.
Here is a sampling of the damaging comments HR people and line managers hear when they check references:
- “Our company policy prohibits us saying anything. We can only verify dates of employment and title.” Then the reference goes on to say something like, “Check his references very, very carefully.”
- “Are you certain he gave my name as a reference?”
- “After we settle our lawsuit…”
- “Let me see what the paperwork says I am able to give out regarding _______.”
- “Is he still in this field?”
References and past employers won’t call and warn you that they are not going to be complimentary. The reference situation is ever changing and therefore very volatile because of shifting company policies (not that many employees choose to follow them anyway), new employees in HR departments, new laws governing references, and company liability for giving references.
You are well advised to take more control of your career momentum by finding out what every potential reference will say about you. If the odds hold, as they will, those references will range from stellar to negative; yet when you know what someone is going to say about you, you can pass on your best references with greater confidence. You will also have the opportunity to stop references from saying things that are not true or inaccurate.
Increasing Your Chances of a Good Reference.
Here are some general rules of thumb to maximize the tone and accuracy of your references.
- Make sure your records are correct.
Occasionally an interviewee looks bad because his former HR department did not have the same job date and title information in his file as he did on his résumé. Data entry or communications errors are not unusual, so check with your HR department to ensure that their records correspond to yours. Conflicting data will be perceived as a big negative to a prospective employer.
- Maintain active and positive relationships with your references.
Stay in touch over the phone or over coffee. Keep the reference up-to-date about your progress, and make sure you have the most up-to-date information about them. If the reference’s title (or name) has changed, or if they’ve left their position and you’ve provided old information to the prospective employer, it doesn’t look good.
- Advise a reference about an important opportunity.
To avoid burning out your references, you don’t need to call about every single job opportunity. However, if a particular position is very important to you, call the reference and give them details about what the company may be looking for.
- Know reporting relationships.
Even though you’ve given the senior vice president’s name as a reference, the prospective employer may resort to calling the director you reported to because she can’t reach the senior VP. Even though you have not given that person’s name as a reference, it is on the application that you probably filled out. You may want to advise your former boss about the potential for a reference check and explain what the company is looking for.
- Know your company’s policy.
Although federal law restricts reference information, some states now allow more extensive disclosure. Know which regulations and policies govern your company. In addition, be aware that some employees will break company policy. Make sure that works in your favor by checking with references to gain an understanding of what they might say.
- Don’t rely on relatives or letters of recommendation.
You are well advised not to let Uncle John regale a prospective employer about your antics as a youth. Also, although letters of recommendation can be helpful, information such as titles and even names can change over time. Make sure that the information on your letter of recommendation is correct by contacting the reference periodically.
- Use a reference-checking service.
If you want help in providing good references or if you find that you are losing too many opportunities after several interviews with an organization, you might want to commission a professional reference-checking service. Check to ensure that the service has the professional and legal personnel that can develop a strategic use of your references. Typical service fees range from $59 to $99 per reference checked, depending on level of job position being sought.
Military Resume Tips – Tips on how to write the best resumes
Military Resume Example – Examples of military resumes
Cover Letters – Tips and examples of cover letters for your resume
Military Aviation Resumes – Examples of military aviation resumes
Résumés & Letters of Recommendation – help and advice
Military-to-Civilian Transition Resume Service – Online Service
Military to Civilian Transition
Military Transition – How to best present yourself to civilian companies
Military Transition Reading List – Reading list recommended by top military corporate recruiters
Negotiating a Salary – What salary are you looking for?
Hire Veterans – Find out why Companies are looking for veterans
Federal Government Jobs – Tips and advice on how to find a Federal Job
Prepare for the Interview
Corporate Interview – Overview on how to prepare for your corporate interview
Behavior-Based Interviews – Behavioral interviewing is a relatively new mode of job interviewing
Interview Questions – Prepare for the typical corporate job interview questions
Communications – Get some advice and tips from the pros on how to communicate better